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Plan To Transform Mission Valley, Firefighters Face Increase Risk Of Cancer, Female Genital Mutilation Study And More

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The Mission Valley Community Plan is getting an update. It calls for increased mixed-use development that is pedestrian-friendly and helps residents make better use of public transit. Firefighters face a number of dangers on the job, but they’re also at an increased risk for developing cancer. And, for years, a distinguished UC San Diego economist has wanted to stop young girls in Kenya from undergoing genital mutilation by offering their families money to college. The study keeps getting rejected. Also, members of the Trump administrations got a firsthand look at Los Angeles’s sprawling homeless problem and the efforts to control it as the president directed his staff to find solutions to address homelessness. And, new research finds California’s network of Marine Protected Areas is doing exactly what it was designed to do — allow marine life to rebound. Plus, going on a guided hike while listening to meditative music is a thing and it’s coming to San Diego.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 The San Diego City Council has approved a plan that could in the next 30 years transform mission valley. The plan will allow an increase of 28,000 housing units, including a new emphasis on mixed use zones for businesses. The new community plan approved by the council would also rezone areas within mission valley, which could bring in an additional 20,000 jobs. The entire plan with a river walk, parks, pedestrian and bicycle paths and visions. A new kind of neighborhood for San Diego. Joining me is Jennifer van Grove reporter who covers growth and development at the San Diego Union Tribune. And Jennifer, welcome. Hello. So the mission valley community plan passed the council unanimously, right? Why did council members and Mayor Kevin Faulkner show such support for what is really a very ambitious plan?

Speaker 2: 00:51 Well, it checks all the boxes for them, right? So there's all these climate action goals and it goes back to the city's general plan, which focuses on urban villages, right? So San Diego wants a city of urban villages and this community plan is really focused on urban villages. So right now mission valley is extremely car centric. And the city would point to the old community plan as the reason for that. So that was adopted in 1985 kind of centered around the automobile. This time around. The goal is kind decenter the plan around transit, so they have that trolley line that runs straight through mission valley, but also to create the infrastructure for bikers, for walkers and for people to get to the trolley stations a little bit more efficiently. And so to do that they've kind of divvied up mission valley into four different urban villages. There's the Western Mission Valley verus central, which is the central business district. There's eastern, which has higher densities, and then there's south of IAA, which is all commercial. And so in doing so, each little village has its own character, but the idea is to get people to kind of live and work in the same place so they don't have to take car trips outside of mission valley as often

Speaker 1: 02:08 done. Yeah. The community plan update would bring approximately 50,000 more residents in the area. How can mission valley handle that? Yeah,

Speaker 2: 02:16 that's a question with an answer. I think we'll have to wait to see. But city planners, I'm Nancy Graham who led the effort on behalf of the city. They really see this as an opportunity to right a balance. So they would say mission valley right now is a city of commuters. So two thirds of people are commuting and only one third are residents. So they've established a mixed use zone, which is brand new. This city mission valley will be the first community where they implement this zone. And that zone is, is it gives developers a little bit more certainty about their project. Um, so they can do what's called, um, a ministerial permit applications, right? So they know if they apply for a permit, they're going to get that they can build their projects, but within that zone they can do flexible, they have flexibility to do housing, but also office and, and just kind of mix it up if they need to change the character of, of their project.

Speaker 2: 03:12 And so in doing that, the idea is to kind of right the balance bring mission valley's residential population up, um, and kind of level off the, the working side. So, so you have kind of this 50, 50 balance. If people work in mission valley, they won't have to necessarily leave mission valley to get to the jobs which is happening right now and they won't have to drive on the freeway, which is already a nightmare. It's a nightmare. And um, the environmental impact report doesn't, uh, necessarily give us any hope that will be less of a nightmare. Um, I believe, you know, I can't remember the number, but most freeway segments are going to be significantly impacted and same, same with a lot of the major roadways. However, um, there are two new roadway connections that are a part of this. Two new streets, they're a little bit controversial because they crossed the San Diego River, which also blows through all of Mission Valley and environmentalist don't like whenever you have a structure that crosses the river because it affects the habitat.

Speaker 2: 04:11 But these north south connections are in dire need in mission valley. So Scott Sherman, this is his district, he would say that as well as um, Nancy Graham and other people in the city's planning office. But they would take pressure off the east west connections, which we all know, friars road, um, and some of the other east west connections. It's kind of, those are the main arteries right now and there's not a lot of ways to travel across the river. And so by creating these two new connections, one through the future riverwalk development, which will replace the golf course that's there now. Um, so that's on the west side. And then one also on the east side, I'm complaining the connection of Fenton Parkway, which has been envisioned for a very long time. The San Diego River plays a very big role in this transformation of, of mission valley, doesn't it?

Speaker 2: 04:59 Oh, absolutely. So the river is supposed to be kind of the inspiration almost for the plan. It's the organizational spine, so to speak. And the planners really hope that in crafting this plan, they've given developers and incentive to celebrate the river. They want to see what's called the San Diego River pathway completed. So right now, um, as a pedestrian or biker, there are paths that start and stop along the San Diego River, um, from the coast to the hills. But the goal is to get developers who do new projects that are adjacent to the river. Um, so in using this mixed use zone, they'll have to create pedestrian paseos that connect to this pathway and then also maybe absorb some of the cost of the pathway so it's ideally completed, right. And so part of it, we're going to see through the, the SDSU project that that's also in the planning stages over for, um, the stadium site, but river walk that the Heinz developer there, they're going to be responsible for their portion.

Speaker 2: 05:59 So ultimately as properties come up for redevelopment along the river, the developers will then have to take on some of the costs to get these, this bike way completed, essentially. And then the thinking is, okay, the river can be an asset as opposed to an afterthought. What, where does the new mission valley stadium fit into all this? Well, it's, it's complicated and some might say it's, it doesn't fit in enough. Um, so if you look at the community plan, planners have essentially created what, um, one urban planner, uh, expert called a black box for the SDSU mission valley plan. But, um, they, so the plan did study the environmental impacts of the program that SDSU is proposing for that site. So they would say, no, they're not ignoring that project, but at the same time, the community plan states, okay, this particular area, it's going to be developed through a site plan or a campus master plan, which has, you know, STCU is going through the CAS campus master plan process right now to be announced it. I had been speaking with Jennifer Grand Grove. She's a reporter who covers growth and development at the San Diego Union Tribune. And Jennifer, thank you so much. Thank you.

Speaker 3: 07:18 Uh.

Speaker 1: 00:00 On the 18th anniversary of the nine 11 attacks. We're focusing on a deadly issue. Fighter fighters deal with all the time. Not the immediate danger of going into a burning building, but another health threat. Cancer. Joining me are Captain Jesse Conner and firefighter Kyle O'Neil from the San Diego Fire and rescue department. Captain Connor is also the president of the San Diego Firefighters Association. And Kyle is the cancer and health coordinator with the department. Welcome to you both. Thank you man. Thanks for having us. Happy to be here. So Kyle, I want to start with you. You are the cancer and health coordinator with the department. What does that title entail? So my position was dead. It was developed based on the idea that I could help create a, an educate a department members on awareness and prevention, um, techniques, um, as well as putting together comprehensive plans going forward is how we'll, we're going to do to accomplish these, these tasks that they're trying to do is, um, allow my position to attack anything, um, related to cancer prevention.

Speaker 1: 01:07 So, and it also has to deal with, um, members of the department that gets sick and, and when they get a diagnosis, what does that mean? And as a cancer survivor, you're uniquely qualified for this position. You could say that. Absolutely. Um, you know, I feel emotionally, um, drawn to this position. I feel like this position requires somebody that's going to be very passionate about and changing this culture that we live in. Uh, the fire department culture is used to make, you know, make this known. They're, they're a bit resistant to change. And that makes it hard. Um, when you're trying to bring stuff in like this and trying to change the actual way we do our operations in different things within, within the stations. And Captain Connor and Kyle, I want to ask you all, both when you became firefighters, um, were you aware of the risk associated with cancer?

Speaker 1: 02:00 I was not. Uh, when you come on the job and go through the Fire Academy, you're taught to handle the emergencies that you can see cancers kind of that, that unforeseen circumstance. You don't know that it's working in the background. You're exposed to carcinogens through smoke products that combustion for a long duration and you're absorbing, you're inhaling those things. And Kyle, I know for you, you've had that personal experience of getting the diagnosis. Um, what emotion ran through your own body when you got that diagnosis? I saw at the time when I got diagnosed, I was 33 years old. Um, one of the things that we'll point out is that they're finding that younger people are getting cancer at a higher rates in the fire service. So it's important to, you know, take that into, into consideration. Um, you know, for me mind just was, I wasn't feeling well.

Speaker 1: 02:52 I went into the doctor and what I thought I was going to be in an hour visit at the er turned into an eight hour day. I like to, you know, throw it out there that there's many other people on the, our department here in San Diego that have gone through similar issues and they're, um, you know, we always keep them in mind when I'm talking about this because they're the ones I'm trying to, uh, were, were the people when you look at what's going on, these are the faces that are affected by this. So, um, yeah, so it's, it, you know, it's, and it's challenging. Um, the, I spent a year and a half trying to get my self back together. Um, I was completely off the job for a year, uh, dealing with, you know, multiple surgeries, treatments and different things and then made it back to light duty. And I was just trying to get my strength back and my energy and, and, and with such a demanding physically job, we just, you know, took a long time to recover. I'm actually feel like after being in remission for almost two years now, I'm still recovering from everything I went through.

Speaker 2: 03:52 And, and, uh, captain Conner, how prevalent is this within the fire department overall? The, the average is we're about 9%, uh, at risk, at, you know, greater, uh, chance of, of developing cancer than the general population. Um, and so I can speak to San Diego, you know, we've, we've had a dozen or so in the last few years of, of our personnel that have been diagnosed with cancer. So, um, it, it is fairly prevalent. Um, and, and even one case if it's preventable is too much. And so then what is the fire department doing to lower the risk? So, as Kyle alluded to, it's a lot of it's a culture change. Uh, one we had to identify the problem. So historically speaking, we'd go to fires, we put fires out, we'd go home. Uh, and, and that was kind of our job and we weren't realizing all of the, uh, you know, exposure to carcinogens.

Speaker 2: 04:48 We were, we were, you know, putting ourselves to, uh, so, so when something burns it off gases, hydrocarbons and a bunch of harmful chemicals, uh, we always thought that by wearing an SCBA or a breathing apparatus that we're protecting our lungs, but we didn't realize that you can also absorb those into your skin. Um, that stuff gets into your fire gear, it gets into your equipment. And then what do we do? The fires out. So we take all that equipment off and we put it back on the apparatus with us. We drive around with it, we come back to station, we have [inaudible] on us. Um, and, and culturally we weren't aware that that stuff was killing us. So the fire department one identified that there is a national trend in higher cancer rates among firefighters. So fortunately through collaboration with San Diego city fire department and San Diego city firefighters look one 45, we developed the cancer awareness and prevention program.

Speaker 2: 05:41 Um, and, and Kyle has really been educating the members. Uh, so now we're wearing our breathing apparatus, not only during the fire, but after the fire, when we're sifting through the debris and making sure all the embers are out, because all of that stuff is still offgassing. Um, we're now, uh, aware that we absorb these, these products through our skin. So following the fire, we're removing our gear, we're washing it off, it's called gross decontamination at scene. Uh, we're wiping ourselves down with, uh, essentially, you know, baby wipes or cleaning wipes and then we're returning to the fire stations. We're washing our equipment right away. We're taking showers, we're getting out of that stuff. Um, and I can let Kyle speak to, to some of the other,

Speaker 1: 06:25 oh, well, I was gonna ask, I mean, you know, because not only are you, um, working on prevention, um, a big part of this is support as well. For those firefighters who have been diagnosed with cancer. Kyle, how are you all working to support those firefighters? So part of my job is to make sure that somebody who gets a diagnosis is, I can walk them through the steps that it takes to get through the work comp system because, um, cancer is a presumptive illness here in the state of California for both fire and, and law enforcement. And so it's important to note about that is because of our, because of what we do for a living and what our job entails, we're being exposed and, uh, the presumption law is really spread, um, almost to every state, um, at this point to some degree. And it has some, there's some variables in there as far as what cancers it covers and what we're very fortunate to have that, that coverage, uh, that keeps us protected.

Speaker 1: 07:23 It keeps our families protected. Um, if, if we do get a diagnosis, so that's part of what I'll do is walk them through, walk the individual through what the paperwork process is, and then I'll, you know, if I have to personally take them down there or do what I have to do to make sure that it gets done and they get the correct care they need. Well, Kyle O'Neil and Captain Jesse Connor. I know I speak for many when I say we are so grateful for all that you all do with the San Diego Fire Department. We really appreciate it and thank you so much for coming in. Thank you. Thank you for having us. Thanks for having us. Thank you.

Speaker 3: 07:57 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 This next story contains information that may be disturbing to some listeners, especially children I, UC San Diego economist wants to use economic incentives to stop an African tribe from performing female genital mutilation on young girls, but research approval boards at UC SD worry. His study may do more harm than good. I knew source investigative reporter Brad Racino has the story behind this controversial research.

Speaker 2: 00:28 Eureka uneasy is a professor of behavioral economics at ucs, Ds, Rady School of Management. His work focuses on studying incentives and how they can be used to change human behavior. Here he is speaking on a Canadian Television show in 2014 if you want to understand how people behave in the real world, you have to go to the real world and actually look, look at them. Look, uneasy, wants to change one behavior in particular, female genital mutilation among Kenya, Masai tribe and ethnic group that celebrates the act as a rite of passage. The procedure involves cutting off the cliteracy of girls as young as 10 without anesthesia in part to make them more desirable for marriage. Kenya outlawed the practice eight years ago, but it still continues, so for three years, Kanizi has been trying to get a study approved by UCFD. He wants to pay the school tuition for hundreds of messiah girls, barely teenagers. If they do not undergo the cut, he'd make the payment for four years as long as health checks on the girls showed they hadn't had the procedure, he monitor another group of girls to see what happens when they're not paid. But there's one big problem.

Speaker 3: 01:37 My first impression is that the study is never going to be ethical.

Speaker 2: 01:43 Dr. Timothy Johnson is a University of Michigan obstetrician and International Women's health researcher.

Speaker 3: 01:48 I just think female genital mutilation is not a particularly good area to test economic incentives.

Speaker 2: 01:54 Kanizi said he wasn't interested in talking with, I knew source about this topic because it's sensitive, but university records detail his three year battle with ucs to get his Kenya project approved. The documents offer a rare glimpse into how decisions on risky research are made, how vulnerable populations are supposed to be protected, and how even well intentioned researchers can cross ethical lines.

Speaker 3: 02:18 We live in a global world and what happens to little girls in Kenya, especially if it's being done by researchers from the global north impacts all of us. The

Speaker 2: 02:27 board that approves research at Ucs d denied Sinisi's original plan in 2016 since then, the economist has tried again and again to get the study approved, but he's been denied each time the boards have said his plan is riddled with social, legal, and ethical problems that far outweigh its potential benefits. There are questions about child safety and how to ethically study an illegal act and there are concerns about privacy, financial sustainability, cultural ignorance and western arrogance. Katie Specter. Baghdadi is an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology. She's also chair of the University of Michigan's research ethics committee. She told, I knew source. She's obviously very opposed to female genital mutilation, but after hearing Guinea z's proposal added,

Speaker 4: 03:13 that seems incredibly punitive to these young children to somehow put the responsibility on them that they don't get a scholarship unless they somehow protect themselves from getting mutilated when we know that they don't have any control over it and then they're going to get mutilated and lose their scholarship.

Speaker 2: 03:32 Researchers have an enhanced obligation to protect the vulnerable populations. They're studying spectrum, Baghdadi said, and because the researchers often benefit from their own work, such as getting more funding, publishing in a journal or boosting their prestige,

Speaker 4: 03:45 you can't just say something terrible is happening and I'm just going to watch it because I'm a researcher and therefore that makes it okay. Yeah,

Speaker 2: 03:53 it's extremely rare for a research approval board to deny a study. Once [inaudible] was denied for a fifth time in late August, I knew source analyzed more than 50,000 pages detailing proposed biomedical studies at UCLA. Most of the records go back to 2004 we found no other human research study of the thousands proposed over that period. That has been denied this many times.

Speaker 1: 04:17 This story was reported as part of I new sources, ongoing risky research series, which looks at the systems meant to protect human research subjects for more on the series go to, I knew source.org I knew sources, an independently funded nonprofit partner of KPBS. Joining me now was I knew source investigative reporter, GL Castellano who partnered with Brad Racino to produce this story on ucs, D's controversial research proposal. And Jill, welcome to the program. Thank you. You know, I'm not clear about a crucial aspect of this proposed study aren't many underage girls pet without their consent. And so how would paying for tuition stop that practice? Right? That is the case, but their parents are partly responsible for the fact that they get this female genital mutilation. So the idea of this economists study is that by offering economic incentives to these families that paying, paying for their tuition, that that will actually be enough to prevent these girls from getting female genital mutilation because their parents can stop it from happening. So it would go to their parents and they would be the ones who would say no to this genital mutilation. Even though it is a cultural aspect of their lives. Theoretically that's what he proposed. And what does the research proposal say about how to monitor a control group who didn't get paid and presumably would be more subject to having genital mutilation? Right. There are definitely concerns about that aspect of the study. So all the girls who participate in this research, whether they're being offered tuition, not are going

Speaker 5: 05:58 to get checked once a year according to this research proposal by nurses. And if they have undergone female genital mutilation, the girls in the experimental group will no longer receive tuition. But the girls in the control group, they're not getting tuition anyway, so it doesn't really matter. So they're still being monitored once a year. But the idea is, yeah, they probably are going to undergo this dangerous procedure and he's just kind of uric uneasy. This professor sitting by and saying, we expect that to happen. In some cases, the fact that female genital mutilation is illegal in Kenya but still practice in this small community. How does that factor into the ethical concerns about this study? Right. That really is a big ethical concern because part of what the people we've spoken with about this research proposal have said is by participating in this study, it will be clearer over time in this small community which girls have undergone female genital mutilation and which haven't because we're offering these big incentives, so it's possible that that'll expose which parents are responsible for letting their kids undergo this female genital mutilation.

Speaker 5: 07:12 The result of that is perhaps the Kenyan government is going to come in and arrest the parents in this community who are responsible for letting their kids undergo this illegal procedure. There's nothing in the research proposal about this. There's nothing to say what would happen to these girls and how to deal with the psychological trauma of their parents being taken away. Now, the economist who proposed this study Yuring uneasy. Is he well-respected in the field? Absolutely. His work has been lauded around the world. He studies how economic incentives change behavior. In fact, the one of the coauthors of the famous book, freakonomics called him a genius. So he is very well respected in his field. And the fact that he's the one who wants to go in and offer these incentives in this case, I think makes people really consider whether it's a good idea or not considering that he's done this and it's worked in other situations.

Speaker 5: 08:06 But as you say, this has been, this proposal has been rejected again and again. Why did Kanizi propose it over and over again, eh, despite that, yeah, it's, it's a good question. I think according to what Brad Racino and I have gleaned from the documents we have about this research, he uri guineas, he really feels that this is a human rights violation and that it needs to stop. And this idea is very noble, but the people we've spoken with have said, this is just not the right way to go about this whole issue now. So in other words, does that mean that there is no way that researchers can study female genital mutilation or try to stop it? Do these ethical concerns make that impossible? Not necessarily. This is a specific that we haven't seen before where a researcher is proposing to offer some kind of monetary incentive to stop female genital mutilation.

Speaker 5: 09:04 That's what's new here. But in general this practice has been studied and continues to be studied to try to prevent it. For example, one of the individuals we spoke to for this story is a professor named Timothy Johnson and he went into Ghana and educated the queen mothers and Ghana about the dangers of this procedure and how difficult it is for women to give birth after getting this procedure. And they were then able to go back into their own communities where they are very well respected and try to stop the prevalence of this dangerous practice. So it's really the way that he's going about this. That's making everyone concerned. Jill, why did you and Brad think this was an important story to tell? Well, when we got this treasure trove of documents, we realized this is a perfect opportunity to show how decisions are made about controversial research.

Speaker 5: 09:53 There's no necessary right answer or wrong answer, but we thought it was a good opportunity to tease apart how these decisions are made. And you generally speaking and what you found out, most of these research proposals are actually accepted by the university. Is that right? That's right. It's very rare for a study to be denied in this case. It's been denied now five times, which I think speaks to the real concerns about how this study is going about. Really something to think about it. Thank you very much. I've been speaking with, I knew source reporter, GL Costa. No, thanks a lot. Thank you.

Speaker 6: 10:37 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 The experiment seems to have worked seven years ago. California expanded marine protected areas off the coast, 11 of them in San Diego. The areas described as underwater parks where some or all fishing is prohibited, are men to allow fish and marine life to thrive in a natural state. A recent review of San Diego's MPHs finds that marine species are being protected in the areas and are reproducing journey. Me as Samantha Marie, she's a faculty member who works with the marine biodiversity and conservation program at Scripps and Samantha, welcome to the program. Thank you so much for having me. What kinds of signs are researchers seeing that suggest that the marine protected areas are actually working? Well, it's, it's early days for looking at our marine protected area network. As you said, it's only been in the water for seven years, but we're already seeing bigger fish, more fish, and a greater diversity of fish inside marine protected area boundaries.

Speaker 1: 00:59 And those benefits might also extend to areas beyond those protected areas. Is that right? That's right. In some cases we have a documented spillover. Um, in 2015, scientists used DNA barcoding and modeling to look at our nps at scripts and found that there's significant spillover of, uh, larva and fish into areas outside of boundaries, which means they're replenishing the populations outside as well. Can you give us an idea of where these areas are located? Off The coast of San Diego? Yeah. In San Diego we have 11 marine protected areas and some of them are, um, a longshore or even in protecting coastal lagoons, like, uh, San Alito or a San Dieguito lagoon or, uh, the t I want a river mouth. Uh, but we also have, uh, marine protected areas that are more off shore, like in south La Jolla or Cabrio and Swamis for example. And because our marine protected areas are managed by the state, they can be any place from sort of the mean high tide line out to three nautical miles offshore.

Speaker 1: 02:05 And do the rules and regulations vary between those protected areas? Yeah, they vary quite a lot actually. When we were creating the marine protected areas in California, the state brought together fishermen. And divers and surfers and tribes and really anyone you can imagine who enjoys the coastline in California to sit down and think about the goals of the marine protected areas. You know, what do we want to protect here? What are we trying to get at? And then design the protected areas to sort of achieve those goals. What kind of goals should they come up with? I mean, what is the purpose of these in the first place? So some marine protected areas are really designed to protect certain, uh, certain kinds of species. So for example, rockfish, rockfish off of California live a long, long time. And there's evidence to show that if you, um, if you set areas aside in marine protected areas, let rockfish, uh, sort of just do their thing, do, do what nature intended for them, that they can grow to be 85 years old.

Speaker 1: 03:08 In some cases, some don't even reproduce until they're 20, 30 years old. But when you have these big old fat females, and that is actually a scientific term, um, they have more babies that are more robust and more resilient to stressors like starvation. So that's one example of, of why you might create a marine protected areas for, for example, replenishing rock fish populations. But if you know that there's an area that's really important, um, for a spiny lobster or for abalone or for some other species or for a kelp forest or a certain kind of habitat, surf grass or Eelgrass, you could also create a marine protected area for that purpose. So in those areas where fishing is prohibited or really not much of it allowed at all, how is enforcement carried out? Yeah, great question. So enforcement, um, is a challenge. It's a challenge anytime you have any kind of a wildlife regulation at all, right?

Speaker 1: 04:06 Whether it's hunting or recreational fishing and it's no different for marine protected areas. But the nice thing is that if you have a marine protected area that says, Hey, we're not fishing inside these boundaries, it actually can make it pretty, pretty clean and pretty clear and simple. And in the case of California, um, we have wardens who are both wardens for terrestrial, for land and for the water. And they are tasked with going out. And you know, certainly giving warnings to people who may not know that they're inside a protected area, but if necessary, also writing tickets to deter poaching inside a protected area. Now as you continue to study these marine protected areas, what other benefits are you hoping to discover? Well, one really interesting benefit about marine protected areas in addition to just more fish, both inside and outside is being able to sort of contextualize oceanographic changes.

Speaker 1: 05:05 So we've heard a lot over the last week or so about this blob that might be coming back to town. Uh, this warm water, um, uh, oceanographic events the same as we saw in 2014 and 2015. What's nice about marine protected areas as we have these really robust, longstanding datasets. So we're taking a hard look at what's happening inside the protected areas. When we have a blob or another kind of oceanographic event happening at a large scale, we can sort of study what's happening with the ecosystems without the confounding effects of, and complex effects of fishing, for example. So it helps us to sort of contextualize these oceanographic changes and large scale events in more of a controlled setting. Do you think that it could turn around some of the negative things we're hearing happening in the ocean and with climate change and perhaps replenish some of the things that are eroding?

Speaker 1: 05:59 Yeah, we do tend to find that when you have intact ecosystems, you know, so habitat on wildlife, they're just sort of doing their natural thing, that they are more resilient to outside stressors. And there's also a study that shows that a marine protected area that had been protected, protected a very long time since the 70s was more resilient to invasive algae that we're seeing at a pretty large scale in California, especially in southern California. But that this longstanding protection had sort of warded off the invasive algae. Thank you. I've been speaking with Samantha Marie, she's a faculty member who works at the marine biodiversity and conservation program at Scripps. Samantha, thank you so much. Thank you.

Speaker 2: 06:40 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's called a silent hike. Yet people will be guided through a meditative journey with music while hiking along the trail at Cowles mountain. People who participate are called mine travelers, and they'll wear headphones while listening to composer and pianist Murray hidary who created mine travel. Take a listen.

Speaker 2: 00:29 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 00:29 and Marie joins us to talk about the silent hike happening this weekend. Marie, welcome. Thank you so much for having me. Pleasure to be here. Well, some people go hiking for the peaceful sound of nature and to perhaps escape the noise of the city, but that isn't exactly what's happening here. Describe what is happening during this hike.

Speaker 3: 00:48 So we, uh, bring together, um, music, nature and community into one integrated experience. So all the participants gather at the meeting point and we provide wireless headphones for everybody. And then we all listen to relaxing music that I compose. Um, piano music that, uh, really creates a soundtrack to this natural external landscape. And it creates the space for self-reflection. Um, so you get your alone time, but you also have this real bond and cohesiveness and connection with the whole community. That's, that's with you.

Speaker 2: 01:32 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 01:33 and where did the idea for the silent hike could come from?

Speaker 3: 01:36 So, you know, as a pianist and composer, I started performing in theaters of course, and then I wanted to bring the audience out into nature. So we did outdoor concerts. Um, but since I take people on this musical journey, I thought, well, what if we really went on a journey and went walking, you know, through nature, uh, with the music as well. And so I did the first one and it works so well that now we embarked on a coast to coast tour from New York to the west coast 21 cities. Um, and, uh, W it's just been phenomenal.

Speaker 1: 02:09 So how did you, uh, how do you approach composing the music that the hikers will listen to? Is there a connection between what they hear and the terrain and what they'll see?

Speaker 3: 02:18 Absolutely. So I a hike each of the locations in advance and spend time in that natural setting to really feel the energy of it and just kind of get a sense of the landscape. And then I match and curate the music, all original compositions and recordings of mine. And I match it to that landscape and to, you know, whether it's the view at the top or the places we stomp along the way. So it's really a, you know, specifically curated soundtrack to that landscape.

Speaker 1: 02:48 And what do you think music can add to the experience of being out in, in nature, uh, away from the hustle and bustle of, of noise of everyday life? Yeah, I mean, music is truly, you know, the of

Speaker 3: 03:00 emotions, the language of feelings. And this is a very introspective reflection type of experience. And so people are able to really tap in to, uh, that emotional state, connecting it with nature, which also helps to distress, reducing anxiety and together that combination of the music with nature is just so powerful. Um, so the, you know, that's the experience people are having. It's really both internal as well as connecting it with this external natural landscape.

Speaker 1: 03:33 So what informs and inspires your music?

Speaker 3: 03:37 Well, the reason why I'm so excited about this experience and I created it because nature is the greatest inspiration for me. And with the music I do, which is all instrumental and has this abstract nature to it. Um, I do my best. Like my aspiration is to really, I get inspired by the patterns of nature, the rhythm of nature, whether it's the movement to the trees, um, or the grasses or the flowers or the birds. I mean everything has rhythm and movement to it. And I interpret that as music, as movement, just like music is movement.

Speaker 4: 04:23 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 04:23 and I know you've, you spent time sort of studying eastern religions. How does that influence, um, the music that you play and this IX, this mind travel experience?

Speaker 3: 04:34 Yeah, so the mine travel really is the fusion of my training as a classical pianist and composer with my deep studies, um, in eastern ideas and philosophy and living abroad and, and integrating all of that. And so specifically, nature is such a wonderful teacher when it comes to one of the greatest lessons of these traditions, which is the idea of impermanence and embracing the transient nature of life. And once we're able to do that, uh, and music, of course, is the ultimate metaphor for that. It's the only art form that actually only exists in the moment and then disappears, um, as opposed to like painting or sculpture, right. Which, which, uh, have a lasting effect. And so, uh, once we get to really understand and experience that in both nature and the music, we can embrace life in a fuller, um, way to really live in the moment more.

Speaker 1: 05:31 And, you know, some people will say they just want to hear nature on a high, you know, or maybe, you know, the birds chirping, the wind blowing through the trees or just peaceful nothingness. Um, what's your response to that?

Speaker 3: 05:43 Yeah, and there's, and there's moments where we're able to do that. And you know, on the hike last night in Santa Barbara for instance, we had crickets in the evening, you know, that came out as we descended from the mountain and you're still able to hear that, um, and experience, they know the grand sounds of nature even with the headphones on because they're not blocking out 100% of it. Um, and what's nice too is that this is an experience that people can, can control on their own. They can adjust the volume level to whatever comfort level they want and if they want to take a break and just listen to the wind, they're able to do that as well. It's all about freedom of the experience and freedom of expression.

Speaker 1: 06:21 The hike is going to be on Cal's mountain where it's headphones. Does that impede a hikers ability to sort of be on alert for snakes or other hazards on the trail?

Speaker 3: 06:29 Well, amazingly because of the experience that we have, um, we are opening the senses and that's part of the guiding that I do is opening all of our senses more deeply. So all of us on the, on the hike, uh, because we're not chatting with one another, right? Everyone's in a no speaking zone. So we, we maintain, that's the silent part of it is we're completely quiet moving through the mountain in the forest. And so, um, and so we're all more attuned to our, uh, and much more aware of everything around us, every little movement, everything that's going on, we're completely present too because that's part of the, the walking meditation, this experience that we're having. And ultimately what do you hope hikers take away from this experience? So my, my ultimate aspiration is for people to kind of open up, um, just a little bit more and connect more deeply with themselves, with what's important to them and to take that feeling into their lives so that it ripples out, whether it's at home with their friends and family or at work, and that has a lasting impact for them and those around them.

Speaker 1: 07:41 I've been speaking with Murray hidary, composer, pianist, and creator of mine travel. The silent hype will take place Sunday, September 15th at 3:00 PM at Cowes Mountain. You can find more information@kpbs.org Marie, thanks so much for joining us. Thank you so much.

Speaker 4: 08:11 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 08:34 [inaudible] [inaudible]

Speaker 4: 08:42 [inaudible].

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.